On May 15, 2015, the FERC commissioners sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) addressing two areas where FERC could contribute to maintaining reliability under EPA’s Clean Power Plan (“CPP”). FERC’s letter was in response to EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe’s May 6, 2015 letter to FERC regarding FERC’s role in the CPP and the steps the two agencies have already pursued thus far.
In its letter, FERC highlighted two areas in which it could play a role in maintaining reliability under EPA’s CPP: (1) under a “reliability safety valve” process – where affected entities can petition for temporary waiver or adjustments to emission requirements or compliance timelines; and (2) through reliability monitoring and assistance. Under the reliability safety valve role, FERC stated that it could review the petitions for waiver or adjustments to determine whether any threat to reliability existed without such an adjustment, or whether a petitioner’s corresponding mitigation plan would resolve a reliability violation or reserve margin deficiency. FERC emphasized that if EPA chose to adopt a reliability safety valve process, FERC’s role would be narrow and clearly defined, similar to its role when an entity seeks an additional year to comply with EPA’s existing Mercury and Air Toxic Standards.
In regard to reliability monitoring and assistance when reviewing proposed state plans to meet the guidelines in the CPP, FERC stated that any review process should rely primarily on existing processes for addressing reliability issues, such as those implemented by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, reliability coordinators, or Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators. FERC noted that it could review the analysis conducted by those reliability organizations, suggest additional analysis or, in limited cases, conduct analysis itself. FERC also noted that it could also hold technical conferences or engage in other forms of outreach regarding reliability monitoring and assistance. Finally, FERC stated that it could even provide formal input upon EPA’s request, but noted that FERC’s role should generally focus on regional aspects of CPP compliance and respect the states’ authority over the proposed state plans.